Named for President Lincoln

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings
Original Images:

Author: James Mann

The Lincoln Consolidated Schools, south of Ypsilanti, was first given the name of Rural Agricultural School District Number 1. The next name associated with the school was that of the school founder, Marvin S. Pittman. However, in 1924, Dr. Pittman, who at that time was the Head of the Rural Education Department at the Normal College, asked the Board to consider another name. The School Board then named the school Lincoln in honor of President Abraham Lincoln.

The memorial came about after a visit to the school by Sylvester Jerry and Samuel Cashwan early in the fall of 1935. Cashwan was then supervisor of the sculpture and ceramics program of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The two had come to inspect murals which had just been completed in the cafeteria of the school. “It was at that time that certain members of the student body and faculty suggested to Mr. Cashwan that he design for the grounds at Lincoln School a memorial to Abraham Lincoln for whom the school is named,” reported The Ypsilanti Daily Press April 29, 1938.

Samuel Cashwan was born in Russia in 1900. His family immigrated to the United States and settled in New York in 1906, and moved to Detroit, Michigan in 1916. He studied art at Detroit Central High School, the John Wicker School and at the Detroit City College. After the First World War he continued his studies at the Architectural League in New York and attended the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris from 1923 to 1926. Cashwan was supervisor for the State of Michigan WPA Art Program from 1936 until 1942.

“During my first acquaintance with the project,” said Cashwan of the WPA, “I was deeply impressed with the many possibilities for development and the good that could be derived by the public from its activities…The greatest good a sculpture can perform is to create, not for a museum or a private collection, but for the common meeting places of men, to enhance and ennoble everyday life.”

Cashwan found his idea of Lincoln by reading “Abraham Lincoln - Prairie Years” and “Abe Lincoln Grows Up” by Carl Sandburg. The limestone statue of President Lincoln stands 13 feet tall, and weighs over a ton. “It portrays a Lincoln of mature years wearing the shawl so characteristic of his latter life. The figure of Lincoln stands against a base with hands reaching down toward small figures which represent different phases of his service to humanity,” noted The Ypsilanti Daily Press.

“Let us be firm in the right as God gives us to see the right” is inscribed on the base of the statue. This was taken from Lincoln’s second inaugural address which included the following: “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

The program concluded with the Normal College band playing “Scenes of the Civil War.”

(James Mann is a local author and historian, a regular contributor to the Gleanings, and a researcher in the YHS Archives.)

Photo Captions:

1. Rather than facing the intersection of Whittaker and Willis Roads, the statue faces the children at the school from across the front yard.

2. The statue portrays a Lincoln of mature years wearing a shawl so characteristic of his later life.

Samuel Post: Ypsilanti's "Squeaky Clean" Politician

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Fall 2012,
Fall 2012
Original Images:

Author: Janice Anschuetz

Samuel Post: Ypsilanti’s “Squeaky Clean” Politician
By Janice Anschuetz

In this election year it would be an honor for any politician to be labeled “squeaky clean.” In the mid-1800s, Ypsilanti laid claim to a politician who was “squeaky clean” not only in the usual moral sense, but, in time, in a quite literal sense as well. This luminary was Samuel Post. In July of 1854, he was present at the founding convention of the modern Republican Party in Jackson, Michigan. Years later, he founded the highly prosperous Detroit Soap Company.

In his day, Post was such an accomplished, imaginative, gregarious and unusual man that his very appearance attracted attention both in Ypsilanti and Detroit. He was known for his stovepipe hat and frock coat, and for carrying a gold-tipped cane. Whether he was seen on Congress Street (now Michigan Avenue), in Ypsilanti, or on Woodward Avenue in Detroit, heads would turn and people would wonder whether Samuel was an escaped wedding guest or an actor in costume. Yet, it is said that all those who actually met this friendly and vibrant man believed they had made a true friend. To one and all, he was known as “Sam,” and no one who met him ever forgot him.

The Family Background: Samuel Post was born on November 9, 1834, in a brick home surrounded by gardens, in the middle of what is now the south side of Michigan Avenue, between Huron and Washington Streets. Livingstone’s History of the Republican Party, written by William Livingston in 1900, gives us more information about this family: “{Post’s} …parents were William Rollo Post, a hatter, and Mary Ann Pardee. Both parents were born in New York State, came to Michigan in 1830, and located in Ypsilanti, where they continued to reside until death, both dying in the same year at the advanced ages of 86 and 87. When they came westward the methods of travel were very primitive, the Erie Canal furnishing the best means of crossing New York State, and an ox team being used for the journey from Detroit to Ypsilanti. Mrs. Post’s father, Israel Platt Pardee, was a Captain in a New York regiment during the Revolutionary War and the more remote ancestors were French Huguenots who fled to this country to escape religious persecution by the Catholics during the reign of Louis XVI.”

William Rollo and Mary Ann Post eventually had four children, Lucy Ann Post (1827-1922) and Eliza Pardee Post (1832-1862), Samuel (1834-1921), and Helen Mary Post (1838-1917).

Samuel’s father William Rollo is best known in Ypsilanti history for building what was sometimes called the Ypsilanti Follies. According to Harvey C. Colburn in The History of Ypsilanti (1923), this large four-story building, proposed for a hat factory, was adjacent to the Michigan Avenue Bridge and called “The Nunnery,” based on its venerable appearance. Before it burned down in the great fire of 1851, the building was used as a school that began as The Presbyterian Session House. There are accounts of William’s bravery in trying to save the doors of the building, while flames fanned around town. William was also a land speculator, and, with his partner Judge Lazelere, extended the town plat south to Catherine Street in 1857.

Samuel’s Start in Business: William’s propensity for business seems to have been inherited by his only son Samuel. As a young lad, Samuel made a name for himself as a street merchant selling apples and chestnuts. Livingstone tells us that “At ten years of age, while attending school, he was employed by Charles Stuck, in his general store, to work, when not engaged in the school room, at $2.00 a month….” In an article in The Ypsilanti Daily Press of October 30, 1954, more is written about Samuel’s early ambitions. “His salary finally was advanced to $6.00 a month, and at the age of 16, he left school in order to give all his time to business. At the age of 21 he was earning $50.00 a month and decided it was time to strike out for himself.”

As often happened in Samuel’s life, just the right person came along at the right moment to help. On this occasion it was an interesting man by the name of Rev. John A. Wilson, who served at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. Rev. Wilson lived in Ann Arbor and had no horse, so he walked to Ypsilanti to conduct services and the business of the church. The elder Posts and their children were active members of St. Luke’s, and Samuel’s sister Lucy sang in the choir.

Samuel is said to have explained his ambitions to open his own store to Rev. Wilson and to have asked his advice on how to raise $500 to add to the $500 he had saved from his own small salary. He was so convincing in his eagerness that the kind Rev. Wilson lent the young man $500 from his own savings to be paid back, without interest, over the next five years.

The Ypsilanti Daily Press article states: “Post entered into partnership with Robert Lambie, a man who had learned tailoring in Scotland and together they launched into the dry goods business. It was successful and later Post sold [his share] to his partner and built the Post Block which housed the largest general store in town.” The Post Block is situated on the north side of what is now Michigan Avenue (then Congress Street), between Washington and Adams. In its day, it was surely one of the most elegant blocks in the county, housing both the famed Opera House and the glorious Hawkins’s House Hotel.

Family Life and Civic Stature: Samuel’s personal life also prospered during this time. In 1857, he married a beautiful young woman, Amanda “Mandy” S. Flower, who was born in New York. The couple soon had three children: William Rollo Post, born in 1858; Helen E. Post, born around 1860; and Samuel Post, born in 1867.

In 1865, the young family moved into a large brick home on West Forest near College Place, at the edge of the campus of the Normal School. Samuel’s parents and his sister Helen, who taught at the college, lived with them. Samuel had bought the home from a local merchant, Adonijah S. Welch, for $9,550. With its large lawn and gardens, it was the perfect place to raise a family and also to entertain and impress others. By this time, Post was considered a man of substance and character, and one of the most important people in Ypsilanti. He was a warden at St. Luke’s Church and a prominent and prosperous citizen of Washtenaw County.

A Career in Politics: Several sources, such as the Ypsilanti Daily Press article cited above and an obituary at the end of Sam’s life, add substance to a Post family legend. It reports that Samuel was present when the modern Republican Party was formed at its first party convention, in July, 1854 at Jackson, Michigan, under the spreading limbs of an old oak tree. Samuel was just a young man at the time, only 20 years old, but keenly interested in politics. At the convention he met the Republican politician Zachariah Chandler, a Detroit dry goods merchant, who soon became a helpful friend.

To pursue his ambitions for a political career, Samuel first sold off his share of the dry goods partnership in 1870, earning a good profit. In the same year, he was elected to the state legislature, and two years later became head of the Republican Party in Washtenaw County.

We learn more about Sam’s burgeoning political career in Livingstone’s book on the Republican Party. While in the state legislature, Livingstone tells us, Post “…was Chairman of the Insurance Committee and of the Committee on Federal Relations. As Chairman of the former Committee he framed or reported some very important legislation, including the general law under which the first Insurance Commissioner, Samuel H. Row, was appointed and virtually created the Insurance Department.” Post was also a member of the State Central Committee and attended many state and national conventions.

With growing national exposure, and the help of his friend Zachariah Chandler, who knew President Grant personally, Post was appointed by the President in 1873 to serve four years as the United States Pension Agent at Detroit. He was subsequently re-appointed by President Arthur, and served a total of twelve years and ten months in this office.

In a Detroit newspaper article, found in the archives of the Ypsilanti Historical Museum and dated January 11, 1947, W.K. Kelsey provides interesting additional information about these honored appointments: “This was considered a fat job; so lucrative, indeed, that the former pension agents had departed with the funds. Therefore Uncle Sam demanded that the holder of the job post bond in the amount of $600,000.”

That was a high hurdle even for Sam Post. “He knew he was honest,” Kelsey writes, “but the temptations of the pension office had been proved great. He consulted his old friend Daniel Lace Quirk, president of the First National Bank of Ypsilanti – knowing that Quirk was a strong Democrat and unlikely to help a Grant appointee. But Dan Quirk signed the bond for $50,000.00 which was a lot of faith in those days. When Sam Post showed Dan Quirk’s signature to other responsible men in Ypsilanti and Detroit, he had no difficulty raising the rest.”

In his History of Ypsilanti, Harvey C. Colburn sheds even more light on the special credentials required for the Pension Agent’s job. He quotes Post as saying, “Had Quirk not signed, I doubt if I could have filed the bond. There were no guarantee companies in those days and the pension office was in ill repute. Three preceding agents had absconded and bondsmen had suffered. I was a Black Republican and Quirk a strong Democrat, but Quirk put his name down for $50,000.00” It is said that, in later years, Sam would stop by the First National Bank of Ypsilanti and joke with the tellers, asking them if Quirk had $50,000.00 in his account!

From Squeaky-Clean Politician to a Squeaky-Clean Business: Samuel Post’s career as United States Pension Agent at Detroit came to an end with the election of President Grover Cleveland, who appointed a Democrat to the position. But this also freed Sam for a new undertaking. Having distinguished himself as a “squeaky-clean” politician, he now formed a squeaky-clean business, the Detroit Soap Company. Again, he started out with a partner, Digby V. Bell. But, following the early death of Bell, the company was reorganized and renamed the Queen Anne Soap Company. At this juncture, Samuel’s sons, William R. and Samuel, Jr., joined the management. From then on, the company, located in Detroit, prospered under Sam’s leadership and skills as a salesman.

A Good American Businessman and a Typical Englishman of the Victorian Age: In 1893, at the age of 59, Samuel rented out his beautiful home on West Forest to the president of the Normal College, and for 45 years it served as the official residence of the college president. In 1938, the home was torn down and replaced with a new official president’s home. King Hall, a dormitory, was also built on the site. For many years, Sam’s two beautiful and rare Camperdown elm trees continued to stand outside King Hall. There they reminded passers-by of the grace and elegance of the stately Post home, until they finally died of old age over a hundred years after they were planted.

On leaving his home, Sam took residence (presumably with his wife Mandy and sister Helen, though the records don’t make this clear) at the then elegant Hawkins’s House Hotel on the north side of Michigan Avenue (then Congress Street). From that location he commuted daily to various destinations by trolley or train. In a letter written by Carl W. Dusbiber to the Ypsilanti Historical Society many years ago, we learn something about Sam’s life as an elderly man: “He was a typical Englishman of the Victorian age. He wore a stovepipe hat, a frock coat and his jowls were garnished with sideburns…. Mr. Post lived … at the Hawkins House, which at the time was considered one of the best hostelries round about. He went to the Michigan Central Depot for his frequent trips to Detroit, he always rode in a carriage…. Sam Post was a very picturesque figure. And he was friendly and affable. He was on the vestry of St. Luke’s Episcopal…. He occupied a private pew, indication that he was a very generous contributor. I observed all these things, because around 1904, I was a choir boy at St. Luke’s and once a month Sam Post and the reverend gave the boys a jolly party.”

Samuel’s unusual appearance was commented on in the newspaper article by Kelsey: “For 40 years or more, Sam Post was a notable figure in Detroit. Strangers who passed him on the street stared at him. Who was he? A medicine man from some show? An advertiser of something? A strayed wedding guest? For wherever he went, Mr. Post was arrayed in a silk hat and a frock coat. Long after these articles of apparel had become the signs of an extra-formal occasion, Sam Post wore them to his daily work. It is probable that Mr. Post adopted this garb when he was elected to the Legislature in 1870, and decided that it was the correct attire for a statesman…. He was in no sense ridiculous; the costume became him. But it made him a marked man, so that people asked who he was, and got so they felt they knew him, saluting him and speaking to him as they passed, and receiving a courteous nod in return. No doubt Sam Post enjoyed this publicity and thought it was good for Queen Anne Soap, as well as for himself.”

A Pioneer in Creative Sales Promotion: Not only was Samuel’s appearance a good advertisement for Queen Anne Soap, but he had many ways to make sure that the public knew about, and bought, his product. Each bar of soap had a trading card inside. These are now common on eBay, and the card illustrations range from flowers and infants to farmers with moonshine. Another gimmick was that the soap was sold at a discount by the case to enterprising housewives, who in turn would keep the coupons inside the case and sell the bars of soap to family and friends. The coupons could then be exchanged for such diverse items as furniture, lamps, and even a trip on a daily excursion boat to Cedar Point on Lake Erie! My mother-in-law always proudly displayed her family’s Victorian desk bought with soap coupons.

Mrs. Addie Murray of Farmington, Mich. wrote about her childhood introduction to Queen Anne soap: “I was a small girl living in Detroit and my mother would walk with her four children to a spot known as Campans dock. We would board the Belle Isle ferry and for about ten cents ride all of a summer afternoon and evening up and down the river with the orchestra playing ‘In the Good Old Summer Time.’ My first notice of Queen Anne Soap when I learned to read was a mammoth sign located at the river’s edge, which I saw on the excursions. Then later I remember Mother saving the wrappers for a new parlor lamp or something.”

Perhaps Post’s most imaginative venture into advertising was at the Detroit Fair and Exhibition of 1899. Visitors to the fair could smell the tantalizing fragrance of Queen Anne Soap, said to be the first scented soap, and couldn’t believe their eyes when they saw a full-sized cottage carved out of a giant block of the product!

Sam’s Last Years and Legacy: After the age of 80, Samuel Post sold the soap company and also the famed Opera House in the Post Block. The Opera House was never the same after that, and the Hawkins’s House Hotel was hit by a “cyclone” in 1883 and rebuilt around 1886. The Ypsilanti Opera House was converted into a movie theater in 1918, which, according to the April 2, 1918 issue of “The Michigan Film Review,” was called the Forum Theatre. The Forum then became the Wuerth Theater, which showed silent films and held occasional live shows. The part of the building that was the Wuerth Theater was torn down in 1959 to provide space for a parking lot.

Samuel Post died in Miami, Florida in December, 1921, and, after a well-attended funeral at St. Luke’s on North Huron Street, joined his wife Amanda, who had died in 1901, in peaceful rest at Highland Cemetery on North River Street.

Today, we can remember Sam Post not only for his squeaky-clean conduct as a politician, and the squeaky-clean product he made at the Queen Anne Soap Company, but as a talented public servant who was elected to the state legislature, appointed by the governor to serve six years on the Board of Trustees of the Michigan Asylum for the Insane, and appointed by two United States presidents to head the United States Pension Board at Detroit.

Sam was also a community activist. He was a life-long member, warden, and supporter of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. As reported in the 1908 Book of Detroiters, by Albert Nelson Marquis, he was also a member of the Detroit Board of Commerce and of the Masonic Order, Knights Templar, Detroit Post No. 384.

Ypsilanti historians know Sam Post best as a colorful and productive contributor to the city’s early growth. His Post Block still stands today as a reminder of a creative vision that can continue to inspire our efforts to make Ypsilanti a more vital and attractive place to live.

(Janice Anschuetz is a local historian who contributes regularly to the Gleanings.)

Photo Captions:

Photo 1: Sam Post dressed in his silk hat and frock coat

Photo 2: An ad for Sam Post’s Queen Anne Soap

Photo 3: In 1857 Sam married Amanda “Mandy” S. Flower, who was born in New York.

Photo 4: Sam Post’s father William Rollo Post

Photo 5: Sam Post’s mother Mary Ann (Pardee) Post

Photo 6: The Post house on West Forest near College Place, at the edge of the campus of the Normal School

Photo 7: The Post Block with the Opera House and Hawkins Hotel where Sam Post lived as an old man

Photo 8: The Queen Anne Soap building in Detroit

Photo 9: Sam Post Jr. went into the soap business with his father and brother William

Photo 10: “Queen Anne Soap – without an equal as a family soap”

City Council Budget Battles of the 1920s

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Spring 2011,
Spring 2011
Original Images:

Spring 2011

Author: Laura Bien

It is wise to choose one’s battles. For one hard-headed 1920 Ypsilanti alderman, the hill he chose to die on was a hill of toilet paper.

In that time, the city was halfway between old-time days and the modern age. Less than a third of its 7,400 residents had telephones. The Ypsi’ phone directory was nine pages long. Due to a limited supply of electricity, many city factories deferred working hours to the night time. And an ongoing “sanitary sewer” project, viewed as a progressive upgrade from noisome urban septic tanks and privies, emptied directly into the Huron River.

Issues before the city council reflected this time of transition. At its October 4, 1920, meeting the council weighed the street commissioner’s bill for oats for his horse. The bill had been carried over from a previous council meeting that had struggled but failed to resolve the issue of the horse’s feed.

One alderman was fed up. “Alderman Worden said he had bought oats about the same time for 85 cents a bushel, while the charge for oats in this bill was $1.35,” reported the October 5, 1920 Daily Ypsilanti-Press. “Profound silence on the part of the other aldermen. Finally it was moved that the bill be paid, and the vote was 9 to 1 in favor.”

Local gardener Frank P. Worden did not approve. A veteran city office-holder and recent candidate for mayor, he took a dim view of those who sought political perks. When at the same council meeting the Third Ward election inspectors submitted a bill for election-day refreshments, Worden bristled.

“The amount involved was $2.35 (the equivalent of $25 today) - just the kind of bill that the council had heretofore paid without a murmur,” noted the paper. “But this particular bill was strenuously objected to by Alderman Worden: “The inspectors get $10 ($106 today) a day; let them pay for their own lunches,’ he said.” The other aldermen conceded, and voted it down.

Another bill was submitted for $500 ($5,300) of park improvements despite an emptied parks fund, said the paper. “‘When a fund is exhausted how can a bill be paid?’ asked Alderman Worden. “Nobody has any authority in the charter to pay such a bill.” His colleagues disagreed and approved the expense.

Worden had been overridden on the questions of parks and oats. He wasn’t pleased. The next bill before council kicked off a two-month saga, led by Worden, that involved one of the city’s most popular and prestigious charities.

Members of the Patriotic Service League included many of the city’s most prominent citizens. The group raised money for wartime charity drives and opened a downtown employment office for returning World War soldiers. The P.S.L. raised funds for the erection of a war memorial plaque, visible today on the southwest side of Cross Street Bridge.

The P.S.L. also sought to refine civic life. In the spring of 1919, the group opened a municipal “Rest Room” at 29 North Huron, on the west side of the street just north of Michigan Avenue. The two-story facility offered an elegant yet comfortable parlor with easy chairs, tables of magazines to peruse, a telephone, and a writing desk with complimentary stationery. Another room contained a fainting-couch and basic medical supplies. The Rest Room also had several conference rooms and large and elegant bathrooms. An on-site matron presided over the Rest Room and welcomed downtown shoppers wearied from their labors.

The P.S.L. had originally split the cost of the Rest Room with the city, with the agreement that after a year, the city would assume all expenses. The city had a different understanding, claiming that the 50-50 split was permanent and all it had budgeted for, for the current fiscal year. At the October 4 council meeting, former mayor Lee Brown spoke up for the P.S.L., lauding its work and claiming that the city should henceforth pay the total cost of the Rest Room. Dissent arose. “Something like 15 minutes were occupied in hearing objections to paying incidental bills connected with the Rest Room, of which toilet paper was an item,” said the paper. The issue was tabled.

At the next council meeting on October 18, the battle continued. “Just who will pay for the toilet paper for the Rest Room is still undecided,” said the Press. “‘I don’t see how the city can pay for the Rest Room,’ said Alderman Worden [that] night to Mrs. Brown and Mrs. Quirk, who represented the Patriotic Service League and brought the minutes of their organization with them to show that they had not promised to help support the Rest Room this year, though they had set aside $300 for that purpose.”

Worden did not back down. By December, the issue still wasn’t settled. “What to do with the Rest Room again came before the council,” said the December 7th Press. “Unless some action is taken soon, the rest room will have to be closed up, for the appropriation is about exhausted.

“It was referred to the Rest Room Committee who will meet the officers of the Patriotic Service League and see if some plan cannot be evolved to keep the room open.”

The issue vanished from subsequent Council proceedings as reported in the paper, suggesting that the P.S.L. quietly yielded to the Rest Room Committee’s strictures. If so, Worden’s stubbornness had paid off.

But the Rest Room’s days were numbered. By 1927, it had moved across the street and designated some of its space as an office for city social worker Inez Graves. Shortly thereafter, the Rest Room closed. The local police force took over the spot as a downtown station.

Gone was the fatigued shopper’s elegant alighting-spot.

(Laura Bien is a local writer, a volunteer in the YHS Archives, and a regular contributor to the Gleanings.)

Photo Captions:

Photo 1: The original rest room stood on the west side of Huron just north of Michigan Avenue.

Photo 2: Later, the rest room moved across the street to 56 North Huron Street and was renamed the “Comfort Station."

Photo 3: In 1941 the former “Comfort Station” at 56 North Huron Street was used for a Police Station.

Photo 4: In the early 1980s Douglas Spicer, Attorney at Law, used 56 North Huron Street for his office.

Demetrius! Where are you?

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Spring 2011,
Spring 2011
Original Images:

Spring 2011

Author: James Mann

Looking down from the wall in the front entrance of the museum is a portrait of Demetrius Ypsilanti, for whom the city is named. There is a story behind how the portrait came to be there, a story filled with acts of kindness, mystery and some more mystery. You see, there are at least two other portraits of Demetrius, but no one is sure where the other two are now. Actually, there might be one or two other portraits as well, but no one can say where these are now, so the mystery deepens.

The first portrait of Demetrius to arrive in the city was a gift of the Greek counsel in New York City, who in the 1880’s had inquired as to the origin of the name of the city. On learning the city was named for the hero of the Greek War for Independence, he presented a portrait of the hero to the city. This portrait was hung in the council chamber of city hall, then on Cross Street. This was considered to be a safe place for the portrait. Then somehow the portrait disappeared from the chamber. What became of the portrait, no one could say.

In the 1890’s Prof. Strong of the Michigan State Normal College, had some correspondence with a Mr. E. D. Barff, Jr. of London, England. Mr. Barff noted the name of the community from which Prof. Strong was writing from, and informed Prof. Strong his father Mr. E. D. Barff had been the British consul at Zante, Greece, during the Greek War of Independence. There he had been a friend of Lord Byron, and was acquainted with the leaders of the struggle. The elder Barff was something of an artist, and had made portraits of the leaders. These included a portrait of Demetrius. He took great pains to procure a good likeness of the subjects.

Prof. Strong suggested that a photograph of the portrait of Demetrius would be valued by the city. He further suggested he would take on the trouble and expense to see the portrait placed in a place where it would be permanently cared for. His personal feeling was the best place would be the Ladies Library Association building on North Huron Street, which had recently be donated by Mrs. Starkweather.

Mr. Barff sent a photograph of the portrait to Prof. Strong, who had originally planned to present either a crayon drawing or an enlarged photograph of the portrait to the association. He found that an untouched photograph would be too pale and either a touched up photo or crayon would miss the likeness. In the end, Prof. Strong presented to the association the photograph taken directly from the drawing. Where is this portrait today? No one can recall seeing it. It seems to have disappeared.

The portrait in the entrance to the museum is by local artist Edward I. Thompson, who in 1934 made every effort to get a good likeness of Demetrius. He even used a step ladder to get up close to the bust of the general in front of the Water Tower, so he could take pictures of Demetrius from every angle. Then he went home and painted the portrait of Demetrius. After that, he then painted a second portrait of Demetrius and then a third.

One of the portraits was displayed in the council chamber of City Hall, now on North Huron Street. At this time the council chamber was on the first floor of the building. Gertrude Woodard was so impressed with the portrait, she had a hand-rubbed walnut frame made for it. Then the council chamber was moved to the second floor of the building. The portrait, however, was moved to the third floor. At some point, Family Services Agency moved into the space on the third floor, and Demetrius gazed down on all the activity. When Family Services moved to 212 North Adams Street, the portrait went with them. The portrait was evidently placed in storage and forgotten until it was discovered in 1963.

To add to the mystery, a second portrait was found in the attic of City Hall, at about the same time. This one was “elegantly framed in carved oak, which was subsequently hung in City Hall,” reported the Ypsilanti Press of November 13, 1963.

Then on April 30, 1966 Mr. and Mrs. James Vourlites walked into the office of the Ypsilanti Greek Theater with a gift. It was the third portrait of Demetrius by Thompson.

“They told Greek Theatre President Clara G. Owens the painting had hung in their living room for years after they got it from a friend, who got it from a friend, who got it from a friend….” reported The Ypsilanti Press of May 1, 1966. The portrait was on display in the offices of the Ypsilanti Greek Theatre at 203 West Michigan, noted the report. What became of the portrait after that is not known.

The offices of government moved from North Huron Street to its current location on South Huron and Michigan Avenue in 1979, and the portrait of Demetrious went with them. This time the portrait was stored in a closet there. Found by Tim Conway in 1982, the portrait was turned over to City Historian Foster Fletcher. The painting measures 2 ½ feet wide and 3 feet long. “Fletcher said to make sure it’s not misplaced again, General Demetrius Ypsilanti will be hung over the fire place in the museum’s front room—where they can keep an eye on him,” noted the Ann Arbor News of March 20, 1982.

One mystery solved, but others remain. What became of the other two portraits? Where is the one donated by Mr. Barff to the library? What became of the one given by the Greek counsel so many years ago? Is anyone interested in organizing search parties to find out?

(James Mann is a local author, historian, volunteer in the YHS Archives and a regular contributor to the Gleanings.)

Photo Captions:

Photo 1: This might be the image of Demetrius provided by Mr. E. D. Barff of London, England and presented to the Ladies Library Association by Professor Strong. It may be the image in the Ypsilanti District Library in the Michigan Room of the Whittaker Road Branch.

Photo 2: This might be an image of the portrait of Demetrius presented by the Greek counsel in New York in the 1880’s. The portrait was displayed in the chamber of the city council for many years before it disappeared. What became of the portrait is not known.

Photo 3: This image of the Ypsilanti brothers, Alerandros and Demetrius was presented to the city by Prof. Frank Ross of Eastern Michigan University. It is now on display in the library room of the museum above the thermostat.

And We Still Live!

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Winter 2010,
Winter 2010
Original Images:

Winter 2010

Author: James Mann

The world did not end on Monday, September 6, 1875.  “The city is yet intact.  The sun, the moon, and the stars still continue in their courses.  The heavens have not fallen.  No earthquake, no great physical or moral revolution.  Our churches and schools are still in running order, and yet THREE WOMEN ACTUALLY VOTED MONDAY!” reported The Ypsilanti Commercial of Saturday, September 11, 1875.

That was the day the school board election was held, and Charles Woodruff and E. F. Uhl, an attorney, were taking the ballots.   Arriving at the poll were Dr. Helen McAndrew and Mrs. C. D. Bassett.  Woodruff refused to accept the ballots from the women, as, he said, it was illegal and ‘unconstitutional’ for women to vote.

“Mr. Uhl asserted his belief that women were entitled to vote, and secured for himself their gratitude, and the gratitude of every womanly woman in the city, by going to his office and looking up the law,” noted The Ypsilanti Commercial.

By the time he had completed this task, the women had left the poll.  Mr. Uhl went to the trouble of finding the women who were at the home of Charles Pattison, editor of The Ypsilanti Commercial, near the corner of North Huron and Cross Street.  There, Mr. Uhl informed the women that he had ascertained they were entitled to vote.  He offered to accompany the women to the polls.  Soon after this Ellen Fry Pattison, the wife of editor Pattison, went to the polls and cast her vote.

“Even Mr. Woodruff confessed to these ladies that woman suffrage was coming.  If coming, why oppose the inevitable?  It is coming, because it is demanded on the part of the most enlightened of our women, based in gospel common sense, wisdom and justice.  It is coming, because the large majority of the women of this country cannot much longer remain under a free and democratic form of government, submissive non-entities, unappreciative of a Christian and grander citizenship.  It is coming, because the opposition is the most absurd, the meanest and the most ungodly ever brought to bear against a political reform and righteous cause in a free government,” observed editor Pattison.

On the day of Monday, September 6, 1875, the world did not end, but the world had changed.  Yet, as Editor Pattison noted: “And still we live.”

(James Mann is a volunteer in the YHS Archives, a local historian and author, and a regular contributor to the Gleanings.)

Photo Captions:

Photo 1: Dr. Helen McAndrew, born in Scotland, moved to Ypsilanti in 1850 and became the first female doctor in Washtenaw County.  She, along with other prominent women in Ypsilanti, pursued the right of women to vote.

The Visit to Ypsilanti by George Francis Train

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Winter 2010,
Winter 2010
Original Images:

Winter 2010

Author: James Mann

On Tuesday, March 5, 1872, Charles Pattison, the editor of The Ypsilanti Commercial, was a passenger on a train from Detroit.  On entering the car, his attention was at once attracted to a remarkable person seated there.  Soon after John Gilbert boarded the train, and entering the car his attention was at once attracted to this same remarkable person.  “Who can it be?” wondered Pattison.  After a little while, Gilbert whispered to Pattison, “George Francis Train.  I heard him lecture some years since, in Chicago.”  The conductor soon after came along, and assured them, that this was the “veritable, irrepressible, inexhaustible Train.” Yes, it was Train!  The next President of the United States!

Pattison introduced himself to Train and invited him to speak in Ypsilanti on about the 6th of May.  When he bade good-bye, Train said to Pattison: “You are looking upon the next President of the United States.” To this Pattison replied: “If Grant is not elected, we hope you will be.” Train smiled and said: “You may expect a card to my inauguration on the 4th of March next.”

Who was George Francis Train? Train was a businessman, author, world traveler and eccentric. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1829, his family soon after moved to New Orleans.  There, when he was four years of age, a yellow fever plague killed his family.  After this he was raised by his grandparents in Boston, who were strict Methodist and hoped he would become a minister.  Instead, he went into business and was a promoter of the Union Pacific Railroad.  In 1870 he traveled around the globe in eighty days.  Train may have been the inspiration for Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days. At least, Train said he was.  In 1872 he was running as an independent candidate for President of the United States, the reason for his visit to Ypsilanti in May of 1872.

There is no account of the speech Train gave at Ypsilanti, but there were reactions to what he said.  The Ypsilanti Commercial of Saturday, May 11, 1872, noted Train possessed extraordinary physical and intellectual abilities, was a first class actor, and an unequaled comic.

“Not one man in a million can hold an audience as he can,” noted The Ypsilanti Commercial. “Let any other man say the same things, and his audience would fly in disgust.  One of our prominent citizens became so offended that he said he would not cheer the scamp any more.  In less than ten minutes, at a grand, peculiar Train hit, he cheered and stamped and clapped his hands.  Fifteen or twenty minutes before Train finally closed, he proposed to dismiss the audience, and still they retained their seats - and here is the mystery - a mad audience, and still aching and waiting to hear more.  Only a strange fascinating influence can explain it.”

In another column of the issue, The Ypsilanti Commercial continued to comment on Train.  “As a show on the stage we don’t believe that he can be beat.  In comic humor, in the ability to produce incontrollable mirth, and to hold an audience even against their moral judgment, we don’t believe that his equal can be found.  It is a pity that such noble God given powers that might be efficiently used for high and beneficent purposes should be so ignobly prostituted.  He was invited here, and advertised, with his own consent, to speak on political topics only, and it was supposed that he was gentlemanly enough to adhere to the contract.  So far as the lecturer was concerned, no one cared whether he was a Pagan, or belonged to any one of the innumerous denominations, or simply a “Nothingarian.”  …A highly intelligent audience embracing the cream of our city went to hear Train, as we did, with the expectation of listening to a prodigy on the platform, to have a good shake down laugh, but not the least idea of being forced to hear low abuse of the Christian religion, of our sacred Scriptures, etc.”

Pattison noted that the American people lack enough amusements, so when Train arrived to give a lecture, it was worth ten times the cost.  As such, noted Pattison, these men are public benefactors. “In all other respects he exceeded our expectations…He can capture an audience the most completely of any man we ever saw…He is an unfathomable mystery…Now all his attacks upon the vices and follies of the day amount to nothing so long as he does so much to undermine the morals of society, and of true social order, to corrupt the youth.  If he is insane he is to be pitied; if sane he is profoundly and INTENSELY wicked.  He is an unsolved mystery at all events - immensely smart - possessing unmeasured talents for good and terrible power for evil.”

Train left Ypsilanti and lost the election to Grant, and the nation was most likely the better for it.  According to Wikipedia, “He spent his final days on park benches in New York City’s Madison Square Park, handing out dimes and refusing to speak to anyone but children and animals.” He died in 1904.

(James Mann is a volunteer in the YHS Archives, a local historian and author, and a regular contributor to the Gleanings.)

Photo Captions:

Photo 1: George Francis Train, an independent candidate for president in 1872, stopped in Ypsilanti to deliver a political speech.

Liberty Awakes in Washtenaw County: When Women Won the Vote

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Winter 2010,
Winter 2010
Original Images:

Winter 2010

Visit the Women’s Suffrage Exhibit opening January 8th, 2011 at the Museum on Main Street in Ann Arbor to learn answers to the following questions: Why did Washtenaw County vote against suffrage, not once, but twice? What town passed the Woman Suffrage Referendum in 1912 and 1913? What famous woman came to Ann Arbor to speak in 1912? And, how many equal suffrage associations were there in Washtenaw County in 1912?

The exhibit is sponsored by the League of Women Voters of the Ann Arbor Area in conjunction with the Washtenaw County Historical Society. The exhibit runs from January 8th through February 11, 2011. Co-curators of the exhibit are Jeanne Delay and Zoe Behnke. The hours of the exhibit are 12:00 to 4:00 Sunday through Saturday. To arrange a private tour for a group please email

The Chautauqua Movement – More of the Story

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Summer 2010,
Summer 2010
Original Images:

Author: Jack Minzey

I greatly enjoyed the article about the Chautauqua Movement called “Enlightened Ypsilanti” by Derek Spinei which appeared in the Spring, 2010 issue of the Ypsilanti Gleanings. The story took me back to one of my personal experiences which is a story I have never told, and only a few people are aware that it happened.

In 1966, I was employed by John Porter, Associate Superintendent of Public Instruction in Michigan, as Supervisor of Higher Education for the State of Michigan. Among my job responsibilities was overseeing veterans programs at Michigan Colleges, creation of a higher education directory, monitoring of the private trade schools in Michigan and supervising the private colleges and universities in the state.

One of my functions was to check on institutions from outside the State of Michigan which were not legitimate operations and which would advertise false degrees and programs to our citizens. These groups would come to Michigan on weekends or for other short periods of time, often establish themselves in hotel rooms and promise people a degree for a limited amount of effort. The exchange was a nice sounding degree for a substantial amount of money. In many cases, they did not even come to the state, but allowed clients to obtain a degree through the mail. I was to check on the legitimacy of these operations and to turn violators over to the Attorney General for prosecution.

My main duty was to monitor Michigan Institutions of Higher Education to ascertain that they were operating within the limits of their state charter. The interesting fact about private higher education in Michigan is that each institution is given a charter under the corporate laws of the state, and they are bound by the mandates of that charter. In a few cases, such as the Detroit School of Music, the charter was broad based and actually permitted that institution to offer any and all degrees which they desired to give. For the vast number of institutions, however, they were limited in their programs and degrees by the wording of their charters. It was my role to review all of these charters and to visit each of the private state institutions of higher education to assure that they were in compliance with their charter.

For the majority of instances, the review and visit were simply a formality and a public relations venture. After each visit, I would write a letter to the president and the trustees of each visited institution, congratulating them on their program and their institutions contribution to the people of the state of Michigan. On occasion, I did have institutions which wanted to expand or change their charter. In these cases, they were required to submit a proposal dealing with how they wanted their charter altered. This was reviewed by my staff and then a visitation was arranged. The visitation consisted of a three day visit by a group of recognized experts related to the proposed changes. The visitation committee would include curricula specialists, facility experts, administrators in higher education and library personnel. Following the visit, the visitation team would evaluate each aspect of the visit in writing and would submit their recommendation. This recommendation was then taken to the State Board of Education for approval. This entire process usually took at least a year to achieve.

During my tenure in this position, there were two occasions in which I discovered institutions which were violating their charter. One of these was Cleary College. Though absolutely unintentional, Cleary was awarding graduate degrees which had not been a part of their original charter. When this was called to the attention of the officials at Cleary, they immediately started the process to request a change in their charter. This was accomplished and approved by the State Board.

The other institution in violation was Bayview College. As Mr. Spieni points out in his article, the Chautauqua movement had found its way to the Bayview Colony in Petoskey, Michigan through the efforts of the Mayor of Ypsilanti, Mr. Watson Snyder. What appears to have happened is that after a few years of operation, there was a request by people who attended that Chautauqua for college credit. In order to achieve this, the leaders at Bayview asked Albion College, which had a Methodist affiliation, to grant credit from their institution. Albion College agreed, and it thus became possible to not only enjoy the programs at Bayview, but to get college credits for doing so.

Somewhere along the way, Albion College decided to no longer honor this affiliation. It is not clear when this happened, but for some reason, Albion withdrew from this arrangement. The leadership at Bayview then decided to create their own college and award their own college credits. They created Bayview College and somehow got it listed as a legitimate college in the Michigan Directory of Higher Education. They then created their own method of providing transcripts and for a number of years, functioned as a legal Michigan College, operating without a state charter.

When I visited them in 1967, they were made aware of the problem. Naturally, this was an issue of great concern since they had been operating in this fashion for a number of years. They were given the same options as were required under the law. They could prepare a proposal and go through an evaluation which could lead to a legitimate charter, or they could simply end the awarding of college credits. At that time, they opted to end their college designation.

It was unfortunate that their story had a negative ending. They had operated with the best of intentions and really had been unaware of the illegality of their actions. However, the procedure for organizing and operating a credit and degree granting institution in Michigan has assured the citizens of Michigan of the legitimacy of their degrees in this state and protected them from possible fraudulent operations of unprofessional and meaningless programs and degrees.

(Jack Minzey is a retired administrator and professor from Eastern Michigan University and is a member of the YHS Endowment Fund Advisory Board.)

From the Archives

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Spring 2003,
Spring 2003
Original Images:

By William Edmunds, MD


This book fell into our hands quite by accident. We were home on New Year's Day, 1975, when we received a call from Dick Boatwright in Manchester, MI. The former two-time mayor of Ypsilanti had moved there and opened an antique store in his house. He said a man was in his shop with an old book he wished to sell in order to get money to celebrate the New Year.

Dick told him that he knew some people in Ypsilanti who might be interested in purchasing the book and I was called.

During our phone conversation I asked Dick why he hadn't called his relative, Foster Fletcher and he informed me that Foster was in Florida.

I also questioned him about the number of copies of the book had been published, his response was, “none”. I also asked him how much he wanted for the book and he told me, $25.00. I told Dick to send him along to our home.

An hour or two later the man appeared at our door, book in hand.

I asked him where and how he had come to posses this book. He told me that he had been hired to clean out an old house on Bemis Road. This book was in one of several boxes, full of “stuff”, he had been given in payment for the use of his pick-up truck. He further stated that he knew it was old because on the first page was written, “Record of Election from 1827”!

I opened the book, read the first entry as being taken at the Andrew McKinstry House, May 28, 1827. He got his money, immediately, and was on his way!

How this record came into the private ownership is a matter of conjecture. It is my own belief that it was left behind when the records were transferred from one Township Clerk to the next.

In the 1930's my father-in-law, George Elliott, was the Ypsilanti Township Treasurer. He told me that the tax records were kept on 4×6 file cards in a shoe box in the pantry of the farm!

I was surprised to learn that there were only about 400 cards representing a township population of about 1,200. When my father-in-law's term in office was up, he passed the shoe box to the next treasurer.

I'm certain that's what happened to “The Book”. After some years it no longer seemed relevant. It was left behind and never missed!

We had it micro-filmed at the Bentley Library but retained the original. Foster Fletcher was working on it when he died, and it didn't surface again, despite several searches, until the archives were moved to their present location.

In 2001 a micro-filmed copy was obtained but it is not as legible as the original, and is much more difficult with which to work. Reading the 175 year old ink is easier due to shading which was lost in the micro-film process. This is particularly true with the name signatures.

The following is a copy of the requirements needed to form a local government under the Territorial Law. It also includes information from the census of that period.

“In the 1830 census (the previous one was taken in 1820 being prior to settlement at Woodruff's Grove) there was a total population in Washtenaw County of 4042. Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor, Dexter, Panama and Saline were included as one “due to” the assistant not having properly divided the towns.” Of the 4042 there were 1033 voting-age males. (white 20 yrs. and older).

The Territorial Act required a population of 60,000 in order to apply for Statehood. Michigan achieved statehood in 1837.

Washtenaw County claimed 1/15th of the state's population.”

On reading the entries in the book, some confusion is created because each bears the notation-“I do hereby certify the above return to be a free copy of the original” over the township clerk's signature.

However, there are counter signatures of the election inspector above the clerk's signature. This validates the entry and appears to have been written at the time or shortly, thereafter, the actual meeting. The first two entries for 1827 and 1828 are by the same hand and both bear the signature of Asa H. Reading. Thereafter, the handwritten signatures change with the election of different Township Clerks. Legibility was apparently a prime consideration for the office. The signatures bear a remarkable similarity on casual inspection, but the writing does vary slightly from clerk to clerk.

The first entry is here quoted in its entirety.

“At a Township Meeting held at the house of Andrew M. McKinstrey in Ypsilanti on the 28th day of May, 1827 agreeably to act in such case made and provided the following persons were elected said township officers viz

Supervisor Abel Wellington 59
Township Clerk Asa H. Reading 54
Apepors (assessors) Joseph H. Peck 46
Amoriah Rawson 45
Hiram H. Tooker 20
Coms. Of John McCormick 37
Highways Philip Sines 41
Thomas Surkinder 54
Overseerers of Poor A. Parker 21
John Stewart 21
Constable Asa H. Reading 42

Constable Hiram Roberson
Resolved 1st that there shall be no more than three assessors in said township
2nd But two constable
3rd Six Path Masters who are elected to serve as follows Viz

Oronte Grantin in district No. 1
David Stiles in district No. 2
Anthony Case in district No. 3
John Bartiett in district No. 4
Augustus Root in district No. 5
Isaac Thomas in district No. 6
4th It is resolved that stud horses shall not run at large of the age of one year, also that cows shall be kept up from the 10th of September until the 10th of November and that any person suffering cows to run at large contrary to this resolution shall forfeit and pay the sum of three dollars to be received by the provisions of this act.
5th Resolved that Jason Cross shall be pound master for the Township of Ypsilanti.

and then adjourned the meeting until the day appointed by this Act in the year 1828 to the house of Jason Cross at Woodruff Grove.

At an election for delegate to Congress we, the inspectors of the poll of election at Andrew McKinstry's on the second Monday of July, 1827 for the town of Ypsilanti hereby certify that

John Biddle had fifty-four votes, that Austin E. Wing had forty-one votes, and that Garbriel Richard had eight votes.

Amoriah Rawson
Joseph H. Peck
Hiram H. Tooker
Asa H. Reading

I do hereby certify the above return to be a free copy of the original

Asa H. Reading
Township Clerk

Ordinances from the Past

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Summer 2002,
Summer 2002
Original Images:

As time goes on, concerns of local government are the same but the treatment changes. Ypsilanti government in 1877 was concerned about obscenity just as we are now concerned about adult bookstores.

At present, equal rights for everyone is our focus. In 1877, local government legislated to separate women from what was considered then undesirable jobs.

Mr. Lambert Barnes was a resident of 220 North Huron and served as mayor signing the following ordinances into law.


The Common Council of the City of Ypsilanti ordain:

Section 1. That no retail dealer of spirituous and intoxicating liquors, or of brewed, malt and fermented liquors, within the limits of the city of Ypsilanti, shall employ in his saloon, bar, or place of business, any female, excepting his wife or daughter, as clerk, servant, agent or waiter, or shall suffer any female, excepting as aforesaid, to wait upon his customers, or assist in any manner in the sale of such liquors.

Section 2. No proprietor of any saloon, bar or place where spirituous and intoxicating liquors, or brewed, malt and fermented liquors are sold at retail, within the limits of said city, shall suffer any female to be present at, or take part in any game, sport, diversion, theatricals, entertainment, minstrel show, or varieties, had or held in his saloon, bar or place where such liquors are sold.

Section 3. No female, excepting the wife or daughter of the proprietor, shall act as clerk, servant, agent or waiter, or take part in any game, sport, diversion, theatricals, entertainments, minstrel show, or varieties, at any place in the city of Ypsilanti, where spirituous, malt or fermented liquors are sold.

Section 4. Any person violating any provision of this ordinance, shall be punished by a fine of twenty-five dollars, to be imposed by the justice of the peace trying the offender. And on failing to pay said fine forthwith, shall be imprisoned in the Detroit house of correction for the term of ninety days.

Section 5. This ordinance shall be published by the city clerk one week in the Ypsilanti Commercial.

Made and passed in common council at Ypsilanti, this fifteenth day of January, A. D. 1877.


Frank Joslin, City Clerk

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